Your first Juice Ball, which benefits Kids’ Food Basket, was in 2010. How did it start?
It was a complete fluke. I was getting ready to turn 40 and I heard some friends of mine were going to throw me a surprise party. Now, keep in mind, between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve, I do about 60 to 80 parties because I’m a chef and I cater. So, that [party] didn’t really turn me on at all.
So, you didn’t want to do a party. What convinced you?
I’ve always done a ton of donations to charities because I’m a softie. I can’t say no. So Juice Ball came up with me having an idea, contacting three friends: Jimmy Le, Todd Ernst and George Aquino. A month before the first Juice Ball I said, ‘I don’t need anything, I don’t want anything, but there’s one charity that sticks out to me and that’s Kids’ Food Basket. Maybe we can have a small event in the JW Marriott and raise juice boxes for them.’
How did the first one go?
1200 people showed up and we bought 144,000 juice boxes.
How many juice boxes does Kids’ Food Basket go through a year?
They go through about a million per year.
There’s a theme for every Juice Ball, right?
The second year was Big Top Juice Ball, a circus theme. Last year was a medieval theme, which was awesome. This year, it’s baseball theme.
You mentioned you’re a big softie. Obviously, Kids’ Food Basket is important to you. What other organizations do you support?
The Franciscan Sisters at the Franciscan Life Process Center out in Lowell. They do music therapy for kids. Some of these kids have never made a sound, and I am huge into charities that are working it. When you see a sister in her habit picking apples up on a ladder … you want to help them out as much as you can.
It seems like kids are your main focus when giving.
Well, I don’t have any, that’s why I like them so much.